The Grace Spitfire ML 407 at The
Imperial War Museum Duxford UK, May 2006
File Ref: 7318_duxford_spitfire_ml407_may_2006
The Grace Spitfire History...
Spitfire was originally built at Castle Bromwich in early 1944 as a single seat
fighter, and served in the front line of battle throughout the last twelve
months of WWII, with six different Squadrons of the RAF's 2nd Tactical Air
Force, all in all flying 176 operational combat sorties. It was delivered to
485 New Zealand Squadron on the 29th of April 1944 by Jackie Moggridge, one of
the top lady pilots of the ATA, where it became the 'mount' of Flying Officer
Johhnie Houlton DFC who was accredited, whilst flying ML407, with the first
enemy aircraft shot down over the Normandy Beach head on D-Day. In December of
1944, ML407 was transferred to 341 Free French Squadron, becoming the aircraft
of Sergeant Jean Dabos. It then moved on through 308 (Polish ) Squadron, 349
(Belgian) Squadron, 345 (Free French) Squadron, 332 (Norwegian) Squadron, and
back to 485 (New Zealand) Squadron, before being remodelled as a 2-seat trainer
for the Irish Air Corps where she flew until 1960. She was used for the film
'Battle of Britain' and was then sold to the Strathallan Museum from where she
was acquired by engineer Nick Grace in 1979.
Nick spent five years meticulously restoring the Grace Spitfire to flying condition as a 2-seat Spitfire, and completed this incredible project in 1985, when, on the 16th of April, the Grace Spitfire flew again, with Nick's capable hands at the controls.
Nick went on to fly it at many air displays and for filming, including 'Perfect Lady'and 'Piece of Cake'. A cruel twist of fate occurred when Nick Grace was tragically killed in a car accident in 1988, and his widow Carolyn Grace took on the task of learning to fly the Spitfire, which you can find documented in the film 'Going Solo'. Carolyn, as can be seen in the film, successfully completed her training by 'going solo' in the Spitfire in 1990, and hasn't looked back since, getting her Display Authorisation in 1991, and adding Aerobatic and Formation qualifications to that since.
The Spitfire is kept in Hangar Two at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, UK, and is maintained by Chief Engineer Dave Payne and his team. Carolyn flies the Grace Spitfire at many airshows, both public and private, up and down the country, and even in Europe, having also flown, much to her credit in no less than five record-breaking Spitfire formation flypasts between 1996 and 2000.
Text Copyright Olivia Grace The Grace Spitfire Duxford UK